Olive tree care – a useful guide

Olive tree care – a useful guide

Despite the Olive (Olea europaea) being a Mediterranean tree by nature, being associated with warm and sunny weather, they can be grown very successfully in the U.K. The Olive is a very adaptable and hardy plant, and with the right care, your Olive tree will thrive and provide a focal point for your garden or pots. This small to medium sized evergreen tree makes for a fantastic screening tree or a stand-alone specimen. Olive trees have grey-green leathery leaves, which help to form a consistently densely headed tree. Olive trees are easily maintained as a shaped plant or just left to do its own thing.

All of our Olive trees are handpicked from Spain and we ensure that they are of the utmost quality and health. We select many sizes and forms (e.g. standards, half standards, plated).  Once you have selected the right Olive for you, we would recommend following the advice on planting and Olive tree care.

Position and Planting

Your Olive tree will be best suited to a sunny position – ideally south or west facing.  It is advisable to protect it from north and east winds. You must also consider your soil type.  Olives will live happily in acidic or alkaline soils, but they do not like conditions that become waterlogged. Therefore, free draining soil is essential. If your soil is sandy or lacking in nutrients, try adding a root growth stimulant or fertilizer after planting. 

If you wish to grow your Olive tree in a pot, this can be done very successfully. You need to be mindful that it will need extra care with watering and will require repotting every other year to keep the tree and roots fresh. 


Olive trees do not like wet conditions, and whether you have planted your Olive in the ground or in a pot, they must have free drainage. During the summer months, your Olive will only need small amounts of water (work with your ground conditions) but will require monitoring more closely if it is planted in a pot. It is best to let the soil dry out between watering. Remember that Olive trees are Mediterranean plants and therefore are used to drought conditions, and can tolerate long periods of time with little or no water.

It is not necessary to water Olive trees during the winter.


Olive trees are naturally used to be adapted for poor, stony soils. Therefore, they only require a little feed, which we would recommend annually in the Spring. For the best results, use a liquid feed fertilizer approximately 12” – 18” away from the root system. This will encourage the roots to spread out further.

Winter Protection

Olive trees are quite hardy and can survive temperatures as low as -10C for short periods of time. If the temperature drops for a long period, your Olive would benefit from being wrapped with suitable horticultural fleece. If your Olive is in a pot, we would recommend putting them under cover (e.g. conservatory or greenhouse). Alternatively, the plant and the pot can be wrapped to avoid the roots freezing.


There is, apparently, an old Tuscan proverb that says an olive tree is well pruned only if a swallow can fly in its branches!

We would recommend pruning your Olive tree in early spring. This will encourage a vigour of new bud growth.

You can prune your Olive tree to any shape you like, and they are extremely easy to prune.  Their maintenance is simply a matter of reducing the lengths of the branches by the amount they have grown each year, or every other year, depending on how often you prune.

If however, you wish to try to produce fruit from your tree, then you need to remember that the fruits appear on branches that grew during the previous spring and summer. The growing season in the U.K. is short for the production of edible fruit, but it is possible with some trees.  Do not eat Olives straight from the tree – they are very bitter.

At Arundel Arboretum, we have an exceptional selection of Olives. We will be very happy to assist you with your purchase and Olive tree care.

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